Great expectations for the coming elections

Published 03.06.2015 23:49

The disappointment could be great in the aftermath of the elections and all opposition parties without exception will have to go into deep introspection in order to really become an alternative for government

Back in April 1968, everything seemed to be working smoothly in France. Then-President Charles de Gaulle was presiding over the destiny of the country and economic growth was satisfactory while French people enjoyed full employment. These were the end of the Glorious Thirty -the post-World War II years - and French society, after having surmounted two dreadful colonial wars, first in Indochina and then, most importantly, in Algeria, was feeling secure and confident. All of a sudden, in the then Parisian suburb of Nanterre, the newly built university's students started to protest the difficult conditions to access the campus, the unenviable quality of the meals, nothing very fancy for university students. But this seemingly very anodyne protest movement ignited a very large student uprising, encompassing the mighty and reputable Sorbonne in the heart of Paris. It also created a good opportunity for workers, who started a very large strike campaign, almost outpacing the trade unions. In a matter of weeks, 9 million workers were on strike, universities were occupied and police forces were incapable of containing the social unrest.

De Gaulle immediately called for parliamentary elections. As the president, he had the right to dissolve the chamber and ask for anticipated elections. The expectations were great among opposition circles, but the electorate voted massively for right-wing parties, consolidating de Gaulle's dominance over French politics. It took left-wing parties 13 years to come to power, when François Mitterrand was elected president in 1981. The remains of May ‘68 are the very high minimum wage, surrendered to the trade unions through the Grenelle Agreements and very rigid employment regulations. Since then, the French employment market has steadily shown a much higher unemployment rate than comparable neighboring economies. May ‘68 would remain a large-scale social uprising whose consequences, economically and politically, remain, at best, very questionable.

In Turkey, June 2013 was the theater of a similar social outburst on a much smaller scale and without the participation of the working classes. Lots of expectations were kept alive by opposition circles, but very much like in France, the electorate chose to consolidate the political party in power. There has been no severe overhauling of employment regulations, but a diffuse and tenacious expectation to see a large opposition come to power has seen the day. With the June 7 parliamentary elections approaching, this expectation seems to grow bigger. Despite all the analyses and opinion polls, a sizable part of voters still hope that by allowing the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to cross the 10 percent election threshold to enter Parliament, it will be possible to prevent the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) from gaining the majority of the seats at the chamber.

The expectation stops there, because the opposition parties, which do not have any common program or vision for governing, try to distance themselves from each other by repelling all ideas of a coalition. So the common denominator for all opposition parties in Turkey is that they all want to be in the government, but alone, as a single-party government. This is turning into the quest of Graal as seen in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The disappointment could be great in the aftermath of the elections and all opposition parties without exception will have to go into deep introspection in order to really become an alternative for government.

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